The COVID19 pandemic has been an immense challenge for countries, education systems, universities and international mobility managers. No one could expect a high-level emergency to occur, and that this emergency would lock many people out of their countries for weeks or months. At the University of Cádiz, we quickly set up a support structure for incoming and outgoing students. We decided to create a WhatsApp channel to inform, support and sustain many people who confined them to their homes. The reality is that one WhatsApp channel was insufficient, and we had to create eight channels. The attention was paid through the WhatsApp channels from 8 in the morning to 12 at night during April to June. In July, we returned to middle-level normality, and it was possible to reduce the support structure created.
The most popular WhatsApp channels were incoming student channels from countries outside the European Union and outgoing student channels outside Europe. The constant request for steps to find flights, buses or transport that would make it possible to return to their countries of origin was significant. There were also constant problems with the return of personal items that it was impossible to take with them on the return trips.
Perhaps the most delicate problems were those communicated to us by the people who felt the most pressured by the situation they were experiencing. Fortunately, the University of Cádiz has a Psychological Attention Service that supported these people and helped them overcome the situation. After a few months, people were able to return to their countries of origin. There were numerous tokens of appreciation that the emergency care service received for the work carried out.
It is interesting to note that we understand and gain awareness during emergency time. It was clear. We need to develop methods and tools that help us during emergency times. Methods to face these types of situations in a more orderly manner. Communication and service tools that allow information to move efficiently and effectively. Care methods allow us to offer quick and effective solutions to the situations and needs that arise. All this, without forgetting that the University is an entity made up of people who give importance to people. RIPEC is a project that welcomes, develops and offers exactly what we would have needed in those long weeks of uncertainty and fear. It is an honour and a joy to be part of the RIPEC development team.